2023 College Summer Institute Closing Symposium: Proceedings

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Session 1

Liviu Megherea, "Fungal Nomenclature and Professional Autonomy in the Molecular Age"

Since 1867, the rules governing the naming of new fungal species have been published in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Although the separation between the Plant and Fungus Kingdoms was already recognized by biologists in the late 1960’s, the International Botanical Congress would represent this conceptual shift only in 2011, when the title of the Code was changed to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants. While the revision seemingly recognized essential differences between fungi and plants, I argue that it emerged from the molecular biological paradigm which views all life through the unifying principle of DNA expression. The name change rhetorically affirmed the Code’s applicability to fungal nomenclature and recognized the professional autonomy of mycologists while aligning their work with the exigencies of plant nomenclature, as both groups would now base their taxonomic classifications on DNA analysis. This technology emerged from the new molecular biology in the late twentieth century, which ultimately fused disparate disciplines in institutions across the United States under the banner of a singular “Biology.” Focusing on the records of the Botany Department at the University of Chicago, which documented its 1967 mergence with Zoology into the Biology Department, I show how molecular biology reconfigured disciplinary boundaries and fused separate scientific traditions on the premise that all life is an expression of genetic information stored in DNA. Yet, by accounting for the 2011 revision to the Code, this work ultimately suggests that the desire for professional autonomy outlives dramatic paradigm shifts and institutional reorganizations which homogenizes scientific practice.

Research mentor: Dr. Brad Bolman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Sammy Zimmerman, "Fungus Among Us: People, Place, and Species in Fungal Cholera Theories of 19th Century Britain and India"

Friend, foe, food, fashion statement, and funerary accoutrement: fungi are enjoying increased cultural visibility in recent years. With climbing global temperatures, widespread use of antibiotic and immunosuppressant therapeutics, and a growing immunocompromised population in the wake of COVID-19, human susceptibility to serious fungal infection is also on the rise. Until recently, popular understanding of fungal disease was mostly relegated to the realm of the inconvenient and trivially unpleasant: athlete’s foot, ringworm, yeast infections. But before Koch and Pasteur, before mainstream adoption of germ theory in the last decades of the nineteenth century, fungi were among the first “germs” to be conceived of as major threats to human health. In order to historicize the human-fungi relationship, highlight the contributions of plant scientists to the history of medicine, and complicate triumphalist narratives about scientific progress, this project examines three instances of misidentification wherein cholera was thought to be caused by a fungal pathogen. The fungal cholera theory was first popularized in Bristol in 1849, was the subject of debate in British India in 1867, and made its final appearance at Cambridge in 1886. Though never achieving widespread acceptance, fungal theories of cholera were remarkably resilient in nineteenth-century Britain and its empire. What made fungi a compelling explanation for perhaps the most devastating epidemic disease of the global nineteenth century? How did fungal theories of cholera imagine the relationship between humans, nonhumans, and the environment? Why did fungal cholera theorists ultimately fail to convince the medical establishment to take their theories seriously? Drawing on both professional and popular publications, and approaching scientific inquiry as a cultural, political, and epistemological problem, I aim to write a history which resituates fungi in the history of human disease and which embraces controversy, uncertainty, and failure on their own terms as part of the perpetual effort to preserve human life. 

Research mentor: Dr. Brad Bolman, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

My Chu, "Addiction on a Chip? Biomedical Models and Their Politics"

Organ chips are novel biomedical technologies where human organ systems are modeled onto a “chip”, a transparent polymer roughly the size of a flash drive, on top of which human cells are assembled to mimic the structures and mechanical functions of organs. These technologies are being developed with the aim of reducing the use of animal models and increasing efficiency in pharmaceutical testing and biomedical research. As organ chips are employed to explore conditions that are believed to have biological and physiological roots, neuroscientists, viewing addiction as a “brain disease”, are hoping to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms of addiction using models on organ chips. In this project, I investigate the rationale and motivation for using this technology to model socially complex conditions such as addiction. To do so, I map out the social worlds of those who are participating in addiction-on-a-chip research such as scientists, funders, and biotechnology and industry representatives. Specifically, I conduct discourse analyses of scientific publications and funding announcements to trace the sociotechnical conditions and social values involved. While the involved actors are aware of the social and environmental factors that influence addiction risk and the complexity of these relations, these factors are viewed as subordinate in the brain-based approach to understanding addiction. Consistent with medicalization, by focusing on biological markers of addiction, researchers are able to fuel interest and funding into projects that obtain observable data. My research shows how this particular set of values shapes how organ chips, which privilege brain-based understandings of addiction, can become a powerful and sufficient technology for modeling addiction. The exploration will support future qualitative data collection through its analysis of the trajectory of biomedical understandings of addiction, how they have changed over time, and specifically how brain-based models of addiction have become dominant in neuroscience.

Research mentor: Dr. Melanie Jeske, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Sarah Gaudron, "Unmasking Endometriosis: Stigma, Normalization, and Diagnosis Delays"

Endometriosis is a disease where endometrial-like tissue grows outside of the uterus, resulting in numerous physiological complications. Currently, it takes many years to diagnose and research on the disease is severely underfunded; knowledge about the condition in general is severely lacking. In this project, I explore women’s experiences navigating endometriosis diagnosis and care by examining in-depth interviews conducted with patients living with endometriosis. I show how stigma associated with menstruation and normalization of period pain leads to delay in seeking care as well as challenging clinical encounters. I highlight cases where patients experiencing intense period pain do not seek out medical attention until it starts to interfere with other areas such as their fertility goals or until the pain reaches insurmountable levels. Even after finally meeting with a clinician, much of their initial interactions are spent judging if the pain should be taken seriously. Ultimately, stigma around menstruation and normalization of period pain interact with a patient’s projected course of treatment. These preliminary findings demonstrate how social processes, specifically stigma and normalization, contribute to delayed diagnosis of endometriosis and prompt broader consideration of social processes in diagnosing other illnesses.

Research mentor: Dr. Melanie Jeske, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Charlotte Manier, "Navigating Endometriosis: Personal Experience and Institutional Practices"

People with endometriosis (PWE) experience chronic pain and mobility issues that interfere with their internal and external demands for life. To understand the way PWE simultaneously navigate institutions and their illness experience, I analyze personal interviews with PWE and court cases brought by PWE in the United States. My research focuses on PWE’s navigation of social institutions with their disease, such as their work and education. Tracing these experiences, I capture the differences between PWE catering illness management to their work and PWE demanding their work accommodate illness management. PWE learn to adjust their treatment and management of endometriosis in order to fit the educational environment and/or demands of their workplace. Legal battles for employment protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act and additional health coverage benefits demonstrate the consequences PWE face when they fail to accept their workplace’s limitations on their care. To chart the paths and barriers to endometriosis management and care, I will continue to research the experience of PWE with employment and other systems influencing their illness narrative.

Research mentor: Dr. Melanie Jeske, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Session 2

Nikita Munsif, "Harriet Parsons, Astrophysicist: Women’s Contributions to 20th Century Astronomy"

Women’s work as “human computers” in American astronomy is well documented throughout the 20th century. Computing work consisted of performing routine calculations repeatedly for large sets of data as opposed to making observations or publishing papers. While many women stuck to computing for a variety of reasons, women were not only or just computers. Harriet Parsons was one such woman. After completing her bachelor’s degree in astronomy at Vassar, she received a fellowship to do graduate work at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. In her master’s thesis, Parsons examined the relationship between color and brightness of the stars in a specific cluster around the time when this relationship was garnering attention from other scientists in the field, including astronomers Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Russell. Today Hertzsprung and Russell are remembered as some of the most important figures in 20th century astrophysics due to their work on stellar evolution, specifically the Hertzsprung-Russell, or HR, diagram. But in the 1910s, before the HR diagram became a mainstay of modern astrophysics, the relationship between color and brightness of stars was an exciting new area of research in which both men like Hertzsprung and Russell and women like Parsons were actively engaged. Studying Parsons’ thesis sheds new light on the kinds of research that women did at Yerkes. In particular, Parsons’ work reveals that women at Yerkes routinely engaged in conversation with other scientists across the globe and participated in high-level theoretical work just as men in their field did. This was often discouraged or disallowed at other observatories because of their gender. Despite these barriers, women like Parsons made discoveries that advanced scientific knowledge in significant ways.

Research mentor: Dr. Kristine Palmieri, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Elena Tiedens, "Entering American Astronomy: Pushing the Boundaries of Women’s Work and International Science at Yerkes Observatory, 1929-1934"

This project explores the position of women and immigrant scientists working at the Yerkes Observatory from 1929-1934 to elucidate broader trends in the history of women in astrophysics and labor-based histories of science. Both women and immigrant scientists faced barriers to entry at the Yerkes Observatory, especially during the financial turmoil of the Great Depression. This project seeks to explain how both groups nonetheless found scientific positions at Yerkes through identifying the “entering wedges” or methods by which scientists found their first positions at the Observatory throughout the weak academic job market of the Depression. Drawing from the Yerkes directors’ files, I argue that unlike earlier generations of Yerkes women, Depression era women first earned their jobs at Yerkes through proving their worth as computers or skilled route laborers. Once women proved their scientific abilities through completing a series of route computations for men’s astronomical work, they were then allowed to work in their own research jobs, entering a field of astronomy that at other observatories, had been restricted to men. Meanwhile, male immigrant scientists presented narratives of individual scientific heroism to gain access to the Observatory. Men such as Jewish German refugee Hans Rosenberg got jobs at Yerkes through identifying their own scientific successes and discoveries in the face of political and social trauma abroad. In essence then, being a woman at Yerkes during the Great Depression meant at first, doing mundane route work incredibly well, while being a male immigrant meant an embrace of individual scientific heroism, especially in the face of political turmoil. Ultimately, both “entering wedges” into scientific work at Yerkes illuminate the varying means by which marginalized groups entered American astronomy prior to WWII. American science became increasingly diverse through both the iterative work of scientific women and the tragic heroism of immigrant men.

Research mentor: Dr. Kristine Palmieri, Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Pallas Eible Hargro, "Back to School in Babylonia"

Abstract forthcoming.

Research mentor: Professor Susanne Paulus, Associate Professor of Assyriology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures

Dani Levy, "Women and Religion in Ancient Mesopotamia Through the Lens of Scribal Education"

The University of Chicago’s Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures (ISAC) Tablet Collection Team is working on a special exhibit of the ISAC Museum called “Back to School in Babylonia” which explores all aspects of scribal education. More specifically, the Tablet Collect Team’s research focuses on a scribal school called “House F,” located in Nippur, a city in modern-day Iraq that served as a religious and economic center in Babylonia. One prevalent part of scribal students’ education pertained to religion, with students learning about religious mythology, literature, and hymns. Furthermore, many of the female scribal students were Naditum nuns— a type of religious priestess. My research focuses specifically on the relationship between women and religion as it appears throughout scribal education. Despite ancient Mesopotamian society adhering to a strict patriarchal structure, many of the important religious deities were women. Additionally, while men comprised the vast majority of scribes, women and female deities still played a significant and recurring role throughout many texts in the scribal curriculum. I worked with numerous secondary sources to learn more about the relationship between religion and women’s agency; I particularly focused on significant female deities and how they can be characterized as empowered women and the Naditum nuns, who had uniquely independent statuses in society, despite their gender. Such research not only provides more insight into the construction of gender roles in ancient Mesopotamia but also the ways in which religion provided a unique avenue for female empowerment despite the dominant precedence of patriarchy.

Research mentor: Professor Susanne Paulus, Associate Professor of Assyriology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures

Sarah Ware, "Tracing Literacy and the Literate: Scribal Education in Ancient Babylonia"

In January 1952, a team of researchers excavating sites in the Scribal Quarter of Nippur, an ancient Babylonian city, came across more than 1,400 cuneiform tablets and fragments, all contained within the rooms and walls of a small house, House F. On these tablets were the marks that ancient Babylonian scribal students made around 1740 BCE., from their first attempts at creating reed-impressed wedges in the clay to their copies of significant Sumerian literary texts. Prior to this discovery, scholars had struggled to understand the contexts in which scribal students learned to write. But, in studying the variety and complexity of the texts written on these tablets, found in a modest school, modern researchers have been able to reconstruct what ancient Babylonian scribal students might have encountered throughout their education. As the ISAC approaches the opening of its exhibition, Back to School in Babylonia, this presentation will discuss some of the ways in which its researchers have worked to support the engagement of school-aged students with this material, allowing them to understand the connections between their education and that of children nearly four thousand years ago. In particular, the presentation will discuss the question of scribal literacy within the context of House F and its students, a research project that will be used to create a series of teacher workshops connected to the exhibition. These workshops describe what literacy meant in ancient Babylonia through the lens of these students, who became functionally and technically literate in both Sumerian and Akkadian over the course of their education (the former intentionally and the latter unintentionally). Additionally, we present the idea that the school also prepared its students to become scholarly literate, able upon completion of their time in House F to enter careers wherein, as scribes, they possessed a deeper understanding of the cuneiform writing system, its history, and its paleography.

Research mentor: Professor Susanne Paulus, Associate Professor of Assyriology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Cultures

Session 3

Lizzie Mickiewicz, "Infant Phoneme Discrimination Using Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy"

Infants have to make sense of variation in speech while language acquisition occurs. By 9-10 months, infants reliably demonstrate that they know the difference between speech sounds that are a part of their native language and those that are not. But even within languages, there is variation in speech which has not been as studied, particularly learning of different dialects of the same language. Before exploring how infants differentiate speech sounds across dialects, we must establish a reliable set-up that accurately measures infants’ discrimination of speech sounds native to their language—a robust effect established in several previous studies. To measure infants’ discrimination of speech sounds, we use functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), a neuroimaging technique that measures the proportion of oxygenated to deoxygenated blood in brain regions of interest, acting as a proxy for cognitive activity. In this study, infants hear two blocks of the same speech sound then a block of a novel speech sound. We expect that the proportion of oxygenated blood will change when the third block of a novel speech sound plays, which indicates evidence of phoneme discrimination. Originally we were interested in measuring brain activity while infants slept and listened to a loop of speech sounds. However, due to variation in infants’ ability to nap, we have switched to an awake protocol where an fNIRS cap is administered while infants listen to a mix of habituated and novel speech sounds and watch distracting visual stimuli. After testing 15 participants, we are in the process of further adapting our protocol. Once we establish a consistent set-up, this same method could be applied to exploring infants’ learning of novel dialects and examine how social factors play a role in this process.

Research Mentor: Professor Marisa Casillas, Assistant Professor, Comparative Human Development

Sarah Sommer, "Analyzing Social Identity and Language Acquisition"

Sociolinguistic interviews are typically conducted with adults, yet language acquisition and the formation of social identity starts long before adulthood. Our research takes a novel approach to understanding the connection between language acquisition and social identity by interviewing caregivers about their child’s dialect and social identity. In order to understand how children learn language as they simultaneously craft and negotiate social identity, the research team set out to conduct semi-structured interviews with caregivers of Black children between the ages of 5 and 10 about their children’s dialect input and socialization. I recruited caregivers and created a transcription scheme in order to best convert the interviews of caregivers to a transcription that can be meaningfully analyzed. The transcription scheme is modeled off of other, similar, transcription schemes that I and another RA utilized extensively this summer for other analysis in the lab. Our transcription scheme is a baseline which will enable coders to mark both quantitative measures of caregivers’ speech, such as phonetic features, as well as qualitative features, such as the caregiver’s awareness of their child’s dialect exposure and use. The research project is new and the study concept is experimental. Because of this, the research team has yet to specify what to look for in the interview transcriptions. Nonetheless, recruitment is underway and the transcription scheme is drafted and ready to use and tweak for future drafts. This research is a starting point for further research on understudied languages and dialects, and will help illuminate the ways social identity is learned and conveyed as a critical part of language development.

Research Mentor: Professor Marisa Casillas, Assistant Professor, Comparative Human Development

Ricky Gonzalez, "A Glimpse of the Global South: An Anthology of Anticolonial Manifestos"

Anticolonialism is a theoretical framework used to criticize modern institutions historically generated by colonialism, but can also be seen as an ongoing historical event. Intensive social studies of colonial cultures utilize anticolonial theory to guide their analyses, yet those in the humanities have failed to comprehensively anthologize the literature of anticolonial movements throughout the 20th century. Existing anthologies often hyperfocus on the Anglophone and Francophone traditions of these texts and include very little from the Global South. The Anthology of Anticolonial Manifestos hopes to bridge this gap as it will include texts originally written in Arabic, Azeri, Chinese, Georgian, Hindi, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu alongside those written in European colonial languages such as English, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Spanish. My contributions to this project focus on the wealth of anticolonial texts produced by Latino authors or movementsThe work itself involves locating primary documents through digital archives or ILL (Interlibrary Loan), transcribing and/or translating the works if needed, and recommending scholarship about the manifesto or its creators. While assembling each manifesto’s profile, I take into account what aspects made each document distinctly “anticolonial,” including listed grievances, cultural histories, and reactions to concurrent events. Despite Latin America’s diverse set of cultures, their manifestos find a strong sense of solidarity with not only other Latin American countries, but also those oppressed for their race or gender. Movements like the Young Lords especially exhibit unique literary styles as they experiment with bilingual phrases, revisions to existing manifestos, and their cultural identities as US Latinos. Anthologizing this edition’s international selection of texts will help historicize the anticolonial tradition of the Global South, and provide academics with a robust catalog of manifestos to cite in their work. On a larger scale, this piece of scholarship can help redefine what modern academia deems “anticolonial,” and alter how readers think of “manifestos” altogether.

Research Mentor: Professor Leah Feldman, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Liana Raguso, "Anticolonial Thought in Print and Translation: The Making of an Anthology"

Writers who aim to combat colonial power have long used essays and manifestos to fight cultural colonialism and advocate new visions of cultural production. Yet many such texts remain largely understudied, as does the more general form of the anticolonial manifesto. Scholars who search for anticolonial manifestos and related forms of writing will often find them difficult to access: sparsely available in original print, unevenly translated, and as-yet uncollected in a single resource. Professors Leah Feldman of the University of Chicago, Peter Kalliney of the University of Kentucky, and Harris Feinsod of Northwestern University seek to create an anthology which will bring together key anticolonial writings from the late nineteenth century to the present day, including texts in less-studied languages beyond the Anglophone and Francophone traditions, thus rendering these documents available to humanistic researchers from a wide range of fields. My work involves sourcing original copies of texts, comparing translations, conducting transliterations, and surveying secondary literature to compile lists of suggested further reading. I focus on mid-twentieth century works originally written in French—such as Martinican intellectual Suzanne Césaire’s long-overlooked essay on liberatory art, “1943: Surrealism and Us” (“1943: Le surréalisme et nous”). Originally published in the cultural journal Tropiques, “1943: Surrealism and Us” calls for art simultaneously free from the limitations of conventional artistic forms and committed to a grounded, emancipatory politics. Though reproduced in a helpful French-language reprint, issues of Tropiques remain nigh-unobtainable within the United States in original print, and available translations of Césaire’s writing vary in accuracy and completeness. Taken as a case study regarding the process of creating a scholarly anthology, tracking my investigations concerning this essay reveals the value and urgency of such a task, as well as gesturing toward potential directions for new research. The work of presenting “1943: Surrealism and Us” and writings like it in faithful translation and appropriate contextualization aims to bring overlooked texts to scholarly attention and create new opportunities for anticolonial literary study.

Research Mentor: Professor Leah Feldman, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature

Austin Xie, "Portrayals of Artificial Intelligence Throughout Scholarship and Media"

Cultural and academic spheres such as the film industry and media studies scholars have defined ways of thinking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) through their portrayals of it. In these written and visual works, they construct perceptions and narratives of AI, and via that affect the greater societal understanding of it. By compiling these works and their AI portrayals into databases and subsequently identifying trends and gaps in this socio-cultural landscape, I open avenues for new studies. Each database focuses on a particular medium like AI art projects, generative AI applications, and scholarly literature. Due to the wide, meta-level scope of the project, I delve only a little into each individual source. Instead, I rely on resources such as book descriptions and artist’s statements to discern each work’s portrayal of AI, humans, and their relationship. Tracking these portrayals using tags and notes on every database entry creates a comprehensive resource for both the present project and future research. I generalize the tags to a database level to enable navigation and comparison amongst the works but retain individual source detail with the specific notes attached to each entry. Through this system I uncover themes that pervade the database categories like the “humanization” of AI, where it is depicted as increasingly human-like and invokes issues of AI replacing humans, AI personhood, etc. I organize themes like this into portrayals of AI as tool, danger, slave, partner, overlord, and more. By cataloguing these themes and portrayals into write-ups and ultimately a visual map with corresponding notes and commentary, I illustrate the collective knowledge and understanding of AI throughout all its discourse. The trends, gaps, and stand-out pieces I highlight provide a foundation for future scholars to study and build upon.

Research Mentor: Dr. Andre Uhl, Postdoctoral Researcher and Instructor, Institute for the Formation of Knowledge

Session 4

Christian Bird, "The Frank Tarbell and Joe Shapiro Collections"

The David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art reaches its 50th anniversary in 2024, so it seeks to once again reflect critically upon its collecting past through research on its pivotal collections. I created annotated bibliographies of Frank B. Tarbell’s antiquity collection and Joe Shapiro’s Art to Live With collection. To address the vast quantity of material on both Tarbell and Shapiro, I segmented my research by medium. Online, in the Regenstein’s Special Collections, and in the Smart Museum’s archives, I consulted sources ranging from recorded interviews to cable messages. The Tarbell Collection of antiquities was donated to UChicago by famed British collector E.P. Warren in 1902 and has always been used for education. Warren donated to many East-Coast Universities, having a significant impact on their subsequent scholarship. Joe Shapiro’s collection of modern art at UChicago has not always been used for the Art to Live With program, which itself has allowed various affiliates of the University to borrow artworks since its inception in 1958. For the benefit of future researchers, finding instructions are included in my annotated bibliographies, which will also prove useful for the creators of the Smart’s anniversary publications and exhibitions. My research highlights the gaps in what is known about the collections, making further inquiry more targeted. For example, there is a gulf of information on the whereabouts of the Art to Live With collection for much of the 1980s.

Research Mentor: Tara Kuruvilla, Collections Research Preceptor, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, Smart Museum

Nathan Davis, "The Max Epstein Archive"

Like many institutional anniversaries in recent times, the Smart Museum’s upcoming 50th anniversary has prompted a review of its history both overarching and in relation to the collections it houses. One such collection that has been marked as particularly important is the Epstein Archive. My research has looked into how the archive first arrived at the Smart and more broadly the University of Chicago as well as how its trajectory has changed over time. In particular, I focused on how the contents of the archive have developed to represent a wider geographical and temporal footprint and how these developments have informed the way the archive has been used. Given the volume of artworks within the collection, I mainly utilised archival correspondence and documents. These resources gave me a clearer idea of the archive’s significance to the university’s teaching practices and how those practices intertwine with the Smart Museum’s goals and outreach. Specifically, the use of the archive’s photographic reproductions in classrooms and for research was a necessity before the digitisation of such resources. Even now a handful of original artworks that were transferred to the Smart from the archive are used in the teaching of a wide range of classes at the university. This educational grounding of the archive is at the core of the Smart’s aims as an educational museum. Despite the preference of newer technology over physical resources such as the archive in current teaching methods, the archive retains its importance as a unique and extensive asset. There are numerous possibilities for the archive to adapt to today’s educational practices in the form of digitisation and for it to re-establish itself as a hive of scholarly and studious activity. Nonetheless, in the present, the archive’s grounding in artistic education serves as a salient reflection for the Smart’s 50th anniversary.  

Research Mentor: Tara Kuruvilla, Collections Research Preceptor, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, Smart Museum

Zak Sadak, "Harrie A. Vanderstappen’s Legacy: Exploring his Impact on Students, the Smart Museum, and the Discipline"

Harrie A. Vanderstappen, S.V.D., was a professor at the University of Chicago from 1959 to 1991. He is best known as a teacher, advocate of a connoisseurial object-oriented analysis, and art historian who influenced the Western study of Chinese art. Vanderstappen’s tenure includes his chairmanship of the Department of Art from 1965 to 1970, a pivotal time during which the Smart Museum of Art was constructed. Given the broad scope of his three decades of work, my research maps Vanderstappen’s effect on the formation of the Smart Museum of Art, the University of Chicago Department of Art, and Chinese art history. To explore this, I examined his personal papers in the University of Chicago Library Special Collections, exhibition and object files, catalogs, and publications from Vanderstappen and his colleagues. I learned that though his primary role was as university faculty, Vanderstappen was nevertheless a central figure in the development of the Smart Museum, his department, and discipline. As an educator, he harnessed the Smart Museum of Art as a teaching institution, pairing the close viewing of art with his connoisseurial approach to teaching. Coupled with his expansive interests across Asian art, Vanderstappen's foundational contributions to the study of Chinese painting and sculpture guided the museum’s acquisition strategies and developed the Smart Museum and the University of Chicago’s strength in East Asian art. As faculty-curator, he raised funds to assemble the Smart Museum’s uniquely strong teaching collection of later dynastic Chinese and Japanese scrolls through close communication with donors and travel. My mapping of Vanderstappen’s influences and impact provides a foundation for the Smart Museum of Art’s self-reflective work in its 50th anniversary year and traces the development of contextual methodology in the Western study of Chinese art.

Research mentor: Tara Kuruvilla, Collections Research Preceptor, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, Smart Museum

Sarah Thau, "Edward A. Maser: A Key Scholar, Educator, and Director at the Smart Museum of Art"

The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago is reflecting on its early history as its 50th anniversary approaches. This research project involved compiling and analyzing materials on Edward A. Maser and his collection at the museum. In 1961, he was hired as chairman of the Art Department and as a professor before serving as inaugural director of the Smart from 1973 until 1983. Archival research illuminated how Maser’s academic background and research interests in 17th and 18th Century Western European art informed his collection of baroque works and his vision for the Smart as an institution focused on object-based teaching. As director, he honed the Smart's educational mission, implementing a museum education program in the Department of Art that would utilize the museum’s collection. As a collector, Maser and his wife Inge sought out works with particular teaching assets such as unique technical elements and canonical values, and they donated over sixty works of art to the Smart. Maser is an important figure to situate in the Smart’s history because he played a crucial role in the Smart’s opening, and the objects in the Maser collection are instrumental to the museum’s 17th and 18th Century Western European art collection. In light of this, relevant archival materials were mined, digitized, and organized. The tangible outcomes of this research include a finding aid for the expansive archival materials on Maser at the University of Chicago and digital scans of relevant primary sources, an annotated bibliography of secondary sources, and an in-depth object study of Giovanni Castrucci’s pietre dure Wooded Landscape, an intricate mosaic in the Maser collection. These resources will help future researchers at the Smart gain a quick, accessible understanding of Maser’s roles and collection at the Smart.

Research Mentor: Tara Kuruvilla, Collections Research Preceptor, Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry, Smart Museum

Session 5

Gabriel Correa Ramos Alves, "Reframing Political Activism in East Germany through Activist Interviews"

The socio-political landscape of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) was characterized by its authoritarian control under the leadership of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). Although the SED leadership witnessed and successfully contained a number of dissent efforts in the first decades of the regime, such as the Uprising of 1953, efforts to undermine and challenge the authoritarian GDR regime only increased in the late 1980s given other developments in Eastern Europe throughout the Soviet bloc. Existing narratives surrounding the political movements that led to the eventual collapse of the GDR and the German reunification in 1990 often overlook the diverse and dynamic experiences of individuals engaged in various forms of activism in that time period. In this project, I aim to reframe activists’ work in order to better understand the stakes and mechanisms of dissent within an authoritarian state beyond the developments in East Berlin and the fall of the Wall. By analyzing interviews with two activists based in the city of Rostock, Joachim Gauck and Dietlind Glüer, I reveal the pivotal roles played by the Evangelical Church and the New Forum movement within the broader Framework of political change in the former GDR. I show that, in the case of Rostock, the Evangelical Church provided an essential space for the discussion of democratic alternatives to socialism among East Germans, serving a greater role that superseded exclusively religious activities. Moreover, the church space proved essential to the foundation of a New Forum chapter in Rostock and actively supported the organization of oppositional groups within the GDR. By putting the voices of activists in the foreground, this research project highlights their motivations, dissatisfactions, and strength they used to navigate the tightly controlled political environment of the GDR.

Research mentor: Professor Nicole G. Burgoyne, Germanic Languages and Literatures

Sam Remondi, "Die Taschenbücher: Pocket Books at the Confluence of 18th and 19th Century German Material and Literary Culture"

The Taschenbücher Collection in the University’s Special Collections has long gone understudied and underutilized. I aim to not only showcase the volumes featured within it but also to open avenues for further study. The Taschenbuch, or ‘pocket book,’ and the Musenalamanach before it, is a small format literary miscellany, featuring serious literature alongside art, games, calendar material, and more. The collection numbers almost 1,700 volumes, and I have inspected and cataloged some 1,000 of these. Most of this cataloging work has dealt with the fine details of these volumes, such as their bindings, content types, and evidence of prior ownership. From this cataloging work, I have created a public digital exhibition that contextualizes the Taschenbücher and that argues that these volumes are important testaments to the changing landscape of 18th and 19th Century German culture and, as a result, fruitful sites of future research. They have much to say about gender norms and the rising literacy of the German middle class and, especially, the women within it. They are also artifacts of the dawn of the professional writer, the twilight of the Enlightenment, and the disperse nature of German politics during the period of their publishing. Finally, they serve as ideal starting places to investigate the onset of the consumer age and the confluence of the literary and material worlds that came to produce literary volumes often within such unique material trappings. My research, summarized in a new online introduction to the Taschenbuch Collection, suggests that the Taschenbücher are not only ripe objects for further scholarly investigation but that even more work needs to be done to facilitate future scholars in understanding what the Taschenbücher collection, and those like it, have to offer. 

Research Mentor: Elizabeth Frengel, Curator of Rare Books, The Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library

Francesco Rahe, "Ostjuden and German Jews: National Identity in Aufbau"

In the early 20th century, the secular-leaning German Jewish community often clashed with the more traditionally religious Ostjuden (Eastern-European Jews). Differences between the two communities remained salient even among their respective diaspora populations in America. In this project, I examine the portrayal of Ostjuden within the popular German Jewish diaspora magazine Aufbau. My goal was to better understand the role national identity may have played for writers in Aufbau, by situating the magazine within the context of cultural divisions between Ostjuden and German Jews. To pursue this project, I researched the history of the divisions between Ostjuden and the German Jewish community, read a number of primary and secondary sources articulating the way these divisions played out on American soil and finally looked through articles directly mentioning Ostjuden within Aufbau itself in the years 1935-1936. My research reveals the deeply intricate and long-lasting nature of this division. As primary sources like Chaim Potok’s The Chosen reveal, conflict amongst even second-generation members of the diaspora population could be quite fierce. However, my preconceptions about the role of national identity were challenged by the fact that much of the conflict amongst diaspora descendants had less to do with national identity alone, and more to do with the antecedents. That is, Ostjuden were, on average, less wealthy and more traditional than their German Jewish counterparts, among a multitude of other differences. Furthermore, I found that the consequences of this division were more far-reaching and complex than I had anticipated. While the full results of this project require further exploration, the Ostjuden-German Jewish dynamic provides valuable context not just to Aufbau itself, but to many contemporary issues relating to the Jewish-American community. 

Research Mentor: Professor Na'ama Rokem, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature and Comparative Literature, Center for Jewish Studies, NELC, and Comparative Literature

Max Rosenblum, "Profiling the Press: Mid-Century Jewish Periodicals"

While Hannah Arendt is widely regarded as one of the most influential minds of the twentieth century owing to works such as The Origins of TotalitarianismThe Human Condition, and Eichmann in Jerusalem, the many shorter writings of this German-American Jewish intellectual are much less widely understood. In making headway into this understudied realm of Arendt’s scholarship on topics ranging from Zionism to American Jewish cultural life, I examined various Jewish periodicals – Le Journal JuifThe Menorah Journaland Commentary – for which Arendt wrote multiple pieces in the 1930s and 1940s. Specifically, I utilized a periodical studies lens as a theoretical framework in order to better understand the multilingual print landscape in which Arendt was writing during these two decades. This periodical studies lens considers periodicals independently and as entities within broader religious, political, and cultural discourses; the lens aims not only at understanding basic information about a specific periodical but also at more complex questions relating to primary and secondary audiences, comparative coverage of events, literary and cultural materials, advertisements, and specific discourses. In using this lens, I relied on publicly available archival collections containing specific issues of these publications as well as secondary source reference materials and translation tools. Through this inquiry, I produced comprehensive written profiles of Le Journal JuifThe Menorah Journal, and Commentary in accordance with the aforementioned lens and translated various pieces of Arendt’s French writing from Le Journal Juif into English. These publication profiles and translations will substantiate the editorial notes Dr. Na’ama Rokem (Comparative Literature) plans to write for an upcoming anthology of Arendt’s shorter writings of which she is a co-editor. As this anthology will be the most comprehensive and well-researched volume of Arendt’s shorter writings to date, the research for these notes will serve as a referent for future scholarship on Arendt’s social thought and will help scholars develop a more robust understanding of Arendt’s intellectual contributions to mid-century political discourses and the periodicals in which these contributions can be found.

Research Mentor: Professor Na'ama Rokem, Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature and Comparative Literature, Center for Jewish Studies, NELC, and Comparative Literature